Restaurant Trends May 2022

US Quick-Service Trends

  • In April 2022, traffic was down 9.4% compared to the same period in 2021.

The following is a snapshot of US Quick-Service Restaurant (QSR) trends for April 2022.

QSR sales in the US are down 2.9% compared to April 2021. The continuous decrease in month-over-month traffic trends is a strong contributor. In March, RMS observed a drop in YOY traffic (-8.5%) and the trend continues, with data indicating traffic is down -9.4% compared to last year.

Average check, up 7.2% compared to April 2021, continues to support topline sales. It is important to note that the 2021 comparison period was a time of great pent-up demand, as lockdowns and restrictions were lifted, and vaccines became available (March to May 2021).  As we move forward into the summer months, we may see the gaps in YOY traffic and sales trends lessen.

Daypart Trends

  • Lunch and dinner traffic is down compared to April 2021. Lunch dropped -3.6% and dinner -3.0%.
  • Breakfast traffic declined significantly compared to April 2021, contributing -2.9% to the total traffic decline. This is a change from previous reports, as breakfast had contributed positively to traffic trends throughout 2021 and was flat in Q1 2022 (-0.4%).

Customers Continue to Manage Spend

When looking at average check, trends show that higher prices (+9.4%) are driving the increase in check performance. Basket sizes are decreasing (-2.0%), as we saw in last month’s Q1 QSR overview, likely because of the current inflationary environment.

Our latest deep-dive report underscores the effects of price on overall spend. In reviewing how dining habits have changed by generation, RMS observed that more than 50% of Gen Zers and millennials feel they are paying “higher” or “much higher” restaurant prices. Older generations reported feeling price increases the most, with 74% of Gen Xers and 78% of boomers reporting paying higher prices.

This same group (Gen X and boomers) manages their spend by giving up items or choosing less expensive options, reflected in basket size and average check. Younger generations (Gen Z and millennials) are reducing their frequency, resulting in traffic losses.

Drive-Thru Trends

When comparing traffic by channel, drive-thru is the only channel experiencing significant drops, down -13.4% compared to April 2021. RMS analysis shows that higher gas prices are historically associated with lower drive-thru performance for QSRs. Although gas prices have stabilized over the past weeks, they remain historically high (>$4/gallon) and are likely contributing to the continued decrease in traffic.

Among generational drive-thru behavior, RMS observed the most significant change in Gen Z’s frequency. In Q4 of last year, 91% reported at least one weekly drive-thru visit. When asked in Q1 2022, this number decreased to 81%. And what about going forward? The share of Gen Zers planning on ordering “more” or “much more” from drive-thrus reduced significantly from 34% in Q4 2021 to 12% in the first quarter of this year.

Dine-In Trends

The picture for dine-in is much sunnier. The channel saw a 2.4% increase compared to April 2021, and customers are returning to restaurants to socialize and celebrate with family and friends. Family households are most likely to continue to dine out. In our deep dive survey, 21% of families reported visiting full-service restaurants “more” or “much more” in the past three months. Though a decrease from 25% in Q4 2021, RMS observed that only 8% of single households increased their frequency in the last three months, compared to 20% in Q4 2021.

As the industry experiences trade-down and potentially edges toward trade-out, proceeding with caution and making the most of your available data can help. If you’re interested in data-driven solutions based on your specific guest patterns, please reach out to us. We’re here to help.

Consultant’s Corner

Consumers Are Trading Down. Here’s How to Prevent Trade-Out.

There’s only so much wiggle room in restaurant guest discretionary income these days, and it is showing up in decreasing basket size and check. Combined with decreases in traffic, it may mean we’re at an inflationary tipping point. What can QSRs do to avoid customer trade out? RMS’ Jana Zschieschang shares tips for operators to keep in mind in her latest article for Modern Restaurant Management.

More Restaurants Face Trouble Paying Rent

Higher rents are an additional pandemic-related challenge facing today’s restaurant owners. Combined with all-time-high food away from home prices and shifting consumer behaviors, operators are struggling to maintain a balance. Read more in FSR magazine‘s latest article, featuring RMS insights.

RMS is ready to support restaurant brands through these ever-changing times. Reach out to us today for practical strategies designed to optimize menu profitability, sales and financial health.

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